Neighbourhoods of the Future

By Gill Kelleher, Policy Engagement Manager

The next 10-20 years demand rapid, far-reaching transitions in the way we heat and power our homes and neighbourhoods.  

The most recent IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report indicated that global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) need to fall by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net-zero around 2050.

People, governments and cities are already taking steps to reduce their carbon impact. But more needs to be done.

As part of my role as Policy Engagement Manager at the Active Building Centre, I was asked to contribute to the Neighbourhoods of the Future 2019 report. This is my submission.

Active Building projects

With our partners, the Active Building Centre is helping a range of full-scale building projects to demonstrate why homes and buildings are key to a decentralised energy future by creating Active Buildings.

Active Buildings integrate renewable energy technologies for heat, power and transport within construction.  Intelligent systems optimise energy management and comfort for occupants.

Active Homes using this design require no gas for heating, whilst being net generators of solar energy, with the potential to share or trade surplus with surrounding buildings, electric vehicles or the grid.

Reduce reliance on The Grid

This provides a different social economic proposition.

Our future homes and neighbourhoods can be used to reduce peak energy demand. They can do this whilst meeting consumer energy needs and reducing pollution.

Active Buildings connect communities of homes together. Sharing energy and charging electric vehicles, including e-bikes and electric cars.

Modelled Energy global pathways that feature low carbon energy generation and demand show that the technical feasibility of solar energy and electricity storage technologies have substantially improved over the past few years.

Unlocking this potential is not just a technical challenge, we also need to overcome economic, institutional and socio-cultural barriers, and inspire change in public behaviours.

Planning for Active Buildings

What should we be doing about it now to make the vision a reality?

Climate change impacts and responses are closely linked to sustainable development, which balances social well-being, economic prosperity and environmental protection.

We need to manage and plan the use of our land and communities more effectively over the long term, making best use of innovation and technological advances.

House-building and community infrastructure projects should be designed to transition away from fossil fuel power generation, to protect future generations from climate change risks.

Invest in decarbonisation

Greater investment is needed to extend decarbonised energy solutions across regions. This requires access to finance, policy levers such as building regulations, local planning reforms and new governance models.

An independent study (Bankovskis 2017) modelled the benefits of this approach, calculating what would happen if the Active Homes design used for a development in Neath, South Wales, were applied to a million homes.

It revealed that the average saving per household could be as much as £600 (a cut of more than 60%), whilst also reducing carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 80 million tonnes over 40 years and peak central generation capacity by 3,000 megawatts Ð equivalent to a very large power station.

Active Buildings achieving UK carbon targets

Delivering Active Buildings at scale requires significant electricity market reforms. It requires greater investment priority for the decarbonisation of heat.

There is a great prospect for the UK government to seize this golden, once in a century opportunity to mandate all future energy scenarios to include Active Buildings at scale as a key enabler to reach carbon targets and transform markets.

To enable the best trade-offs for sustainable development to be realised. To protect jobs. To become world leading in Active Buildings. To alleviate fuel poverty.

With UK government house-building targets currently at 300,000 homes per year, 10-20 years could be enough time for millions of homes and vehicles to transition away from fossil fuels to Active Buildings.

Read the full Neighbourhoods of the Future 2019 report – insert pdf & thumbnail jpeg


Published November 2019